For the past several days, I have had the opportunity to sit, with little else to do than think (and cough and blow my nose). I learned long ago, perhaps when I was ten years old, that the common cold, though very uncomfortable, is an excellent time for thinking.
I’ve tried to spend time reading when I have a cold, but with the sinus congestion, headache and spontaneous eruptions of coughing and sneezing, I find it very difficult to concentrate on the tiny words printed on the pages of a book no matter how engaging its subject may be. Thinking, on the other hand, can drift and flow around the symptomatic distractions of the microscopic invaders causing my discomfort.
You are likely to have guessed that a great portion of my thinking time these past few days included gardening—conifer gardening in particular. One morning, my wife enticed me to join her on our back patio. The sun was shining brightly, butterflies flittered about seeking flowers that are weeks behind schedule, birds were singing and their songs seemed to swirl about in a mesmerizing surround-sound effect which encompassed my garden and stimulated the thinking process.
I thought of the trees that surround my property and how they provide food and shelter for so many creatures with which we share our temporary home. I wondered how disturbed these same creatures would become if I were to remove a clump of 60-70 year old birch trees that are clearly declining in health. I envisioned clearing out some of these older, failing trees and planting a new garden—a new conifer grove of some of our native large trees.
I’ve always wanted to live at the edge of a forest. As a young boy, I dreamt of living on a hundred acres of forest with a small space cleared for my house and vegetable garden. I am not likely to ever achieve that dream, but I do have an opportunity to increase the wood on my little acre. If I did expand the area taken by large native species of conifers, my overall garden workload would decrease somewhat as those trees grew larger and larger, their foliage covering an increasing proportion of bare ground.
The critters with which we share our space would undoubtedly be thankful for the increase in food and shelter. The larger trees would help protect our house from the strong, cold, winter east-wind and provide cooling shade in the few weeks of hot weather that may arrive during the months of July and August. Long after I am gone from the surface of this earth, the trees will be of benefit to generations of others who may call our little acre, “home.”
As I sat in the warm sun on the patio with my wife, between the coughs and sneezes, I thought about many things not previously in my contemplation. I realized that I could easily continue to enjoy the dwarf and miniature conifers, that I love so much, in containers and a smaller more intimate garden, should I choose to create a new wooded space surrounding our home.